Texas: Austin Decriminalization Initiative Qualifies for the Ballot, Other Texas Cities Follow

[1/19/22 UPDATE: The Austin City Council voted on Tuesday morning, 1/18/22, to put the Austin Freedom Act on the upcoming May ballot.]

Despite over 60 percent of Texas voters supporting marijuana legalization, advocates continue to face an uphill battle in the legislature. That is why activists in Texas are now expanding their efforts to focusing on implementing reforms at the local level.

Currently, four Texas cities and seven counties have established local policies limiting legal punishments for activities involving marijuana possession in their jurisdictions, though none of these policies fully decriminalize marijuana offenses. 

Among these cities is Texas’ capital, Austin, which in 2020 unanimously passed a city council resolution prohibiting the use of city funds to prosecute non-felony marijuana cases. Nonetheless, despite the Austin DA’s inability to bring charges against individuals for low-level marijuana possession, the Austin Police Department has continued arresting citizens – essentially turning a blind-eye to the local resolution. 

In response, an array of supporting organizations​ joined together in the capital city and collected over 35,000 signatures from local voters to qualify the Austin Freedom Act on the May 2022 ballot. The act decriminalizes low-level marijuana possession offenses and ends the police practice of conducting “no-knock” warrants. It also prohibits Austin police officers from charging individuals with marijuana paraphernalia offenses. 

Following Austin’s lead, activists in the cities of San Marcos and Killeen, Texas, have begun signature collection campaigns to place similar decriminalization measures on the upcoming ballot. 

As more localities take it upon themselves to enact sensible marijuana laws, Texas citizens are finding that they do indeed have the ability to reform the laws in the ways they deem fit, and they are sending the message to the state legislature that it is time for them to also take action.